Lashing Out

Ten Things About the History of False Eyelashes

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then throughout history we’ve been obsessed with the curtains. From Ancient Egypt to worldwide use today, our eyelashes have consistently been subject to enhancement. Accenting the eye can protect from the elements, embolden our gaze, prove our social status, or be a part of makeup as play. If it includes gluing tiny pieces of hair to the tiniest hairs on our face, then so be it. Below, ten moments in time that mark significant advances in the falsifying of our lashes.

1 // Cleopatra Sets the Standard
Accentuating the eye and lashes were popular pastimes among Ancient Egyptians, using dark kohl liner to heavily line all around the eyes. Not just for show, the makeup technique was also necessary for protection against the harsh desert sun.

2 // Controversial Victorian Gal
In the mid-Victorian era, the French demimondaine, or “it girl” of the time, used paint to whiten her face, rouge her cheeks and lips, and line her eyes. She also was said to have worn false lashes. This look was bemoaned by the conservatives at the time, as it conflicted greatly with their feminine ideals of “natural” beauty. Plenty of “tsk-tsking” went on, such as in the Chambers’ Journal written by William and Robert Chambers. They specifically had a bone to pick with Madame Rachel, a woman who could be considered one of the first makeup artists, as she was said to have been paid well for “enamelling” a lady’s face. The Chambers brothers referred to layering colour on the face as “living lies” and “the instrument of deception”.

3 // Lashes Get Their Big Break
Lashes were made mainstream in 1919 when makeup artist Max Factor enhanced actress Phyllis Haver’s lashes by sewing real hair onto her own. He is still credited with creating the first false lashes, though director D.W. Griffith had requested false lashes for actress Seena Owen on the set of his 1916 movie Intolerance. (He’d hoped to create the effect of her lashes “sweeping onto her cheeks.”) Factor’s early experience as a wigmaker and that he was a famous movie makeup artist are likely what made it catch on three years later, giving him all the glory to this day.

4 // It’s the ’30s – Girls Go Wild!
Vogue both recommended blue mascara for grey-haired ladies and mentioned the availability of false eyelashes of “bewildering length” to its readership in the early ’30s. The magazine also suggested eyelash “irons,” the earlier term for eyelash curlers, so that one could curl her own.

5 // Did Grandma Have a Pair?
False lashes became very widely used in the early ’50s. Glamorous bombshells and film stars were said to wear them both day and night, often using a full set for night and then, the next morning, separating them into individuals for day use. The popularity of film stars and the growth of big beauty brands made the look more accessible to and popular among the masses.

6 //The Skinny on Twiggy
’60s supermodel Twiggy’s painted-on lower lashes and full top-set (often three pairs on top of each other) sparked a major trend which became her iconic look, still referenced in editorials today. Toward the end of the decade, Helena Rubinstein advertised a set of false lashes called “Shaggy” Minute Lashes which came with an applicator. Beauty brand Andrea, which still makes false lashes today, advertised 21 pairs of false lashes available in both black and brown, even including a glitter strip that could be applied to the top of any pair. As Andrea’s ad explained, “Because no two women are alike…”

7 // Minimalism Can’t Stop Us
In the ’90s, a minimal makeup look was popular. A natural beauty in a slip dress, butterfly hair clips, and combed through, lightly mascacra-ed lashes (we’re thinking of you, Drew Barrymore), was the look, but artist Kevyn AuCoin used  expertly applied false lashes to completely transform the faces of celebrities in his books, The Art of Makeup and Face Forward. In the latter, he used a “spiky set” of falsies in which the lashes were clumped together, turning supermodel Christy Turlington into Marisa Berenson’s twin, noting in the how-to section that individual lashes could be applied along the lower lash line as well. A full set was also used to transform Hilary Swank into a dead-ringer for Raquel Welch.

8 // Lashes Hit a Lo
In 2001, J-Lo’s Red Fox Fur lashes made by Shu Uemura at the Academy Awards were flown in for her, causing controversy due to the material and the expense. They also started a buzz for luxe lashes, and were a catalyst for Uemura opening Tokyo Lash Bar, a high-end counter with seasonal lash collections, in 2004.

9 // So Shu Me!
In 2009, Madonna wore a mink and diamond pair of lashes (once again by guru Shu Uemura) which cost $10 000. Some of us balked at the extravagance, while others didn’t bat an eyelash, snatching up the 1000 pairs produced until they were sold out. 2009 also saw models on the fall runways bedazzled on the lash front, in tulle and sequins at Chanel by makeup artist Peter Philips, to outrageous fluttering lengths at Dior by makeup artist Pat McGrath. Both Milan’s Dolce & Gabbana and Versace (also styled by Pat McGrath) featured enhanced versions that seemed more typically glamour girl compared to the former, but which still helped created high demand that season for falsies.

10 // Lash Blast
Today, embellished and extravagant pairs are as readily available as high heels, and are used by performers regularly. Editorials consistently feature lashes made of feathers and mixed materials, like Paperself’s paper versions. Lash Bars are now springing up in urban centers, providing lash-only services from dying, to application, to extensions. Lashes have peaked and are now available for anyone – whatever your fancy and budget.

text// Andrea Victory-LaCasse (AVL)
images // Larissa Haily Aguado